Thursday, August 02, 2012
Liar and Spy
7 August 2012, Random House
Georges is unhappy when his father loses his job and his mother has to work extra shifts as a nurse. Adjusting to living in an apartment in New York City is hard, but he sees a sign advertising a Spy Club meeting. When he shows up, he meets his neighbors Candy and Safer, who are obsessed with observing the neighbors and keeping tabs on building activities. This is a pleasant distraction for Georges, who is teased in middle school for his name and has few friends. He is paired with Bob for science class, which is doing a lengthy and rather philosophical unit on various aspects of taste. Safer thinks that the man in the apartment below Georges' is dangerous, and assigns Georges to keep putting bandages on the door to keep track of the man's movements. After Safer takes keys out of the man's laundry and starts breaking in to his apartment, Georges becomes uncomfortable with it. His mother is working longer and longer hours, and his father's business is not successful. At school, at least, he is able to band together with some other students. Eventually, he feels compelled to tell his father about all of his worries, including some betrayal by Safer, and the two are able to work things out.
Strengths: This has a very strong sense of place, and well-developed characters. Stead's writing is strong and captivating.
Weaknesses: There is not a lot that happens. The action in this book is very low key, and combined with Georges insecurities and worries, I don't see this as something that students will like. Adults who read middle grade fiction, however, will be captivated by the Konigsberg cum Raskin vibe.